Café Altura’s Biodynamic Coffee is grown on the Finca Irlanda in Chiapas, Mexico. The farm is nestled against the pacific side of the Sierra Madre Mountains and has been cared for by the Peters family since 1930. The farms 70+ native species of trees serve as shade and home to over 200 species of migratory birds. Café Altura’s Biodynamic Coffee was the first product imported into the US by Café Altura in the 1970’s and remains a cornerstone of our business today.
Long before Organic and Biodynamic certifications were achievable, the Peters family was farming the Finca Irlanda naturally, even during the advent of ostensibly rewarding crop handling practices like clear cutting trees and chemical fertilizers. Decades later, farmers noticed that there was a trade off for the years of easy pest management and increased crop harvests and the Peters’ family, still farming naturally purely out of principle, grew even more convinced that there must be a better, more sustainable way of achieving balance within the farm.
In the sixties, efforts were made to reach out to Germany to learn more about the Biodynamic farming method that had succeeded there. Professor Kopf visited from Germany and helped the farm to convert part of their natural farming operation to Biodynamic in 1962. The process of Biodynamic farming had been established in more moderate climates but the development of Biodynamic practices for tropical environments had yet to be developed. The five years after professor Kopf’s visit were dedicated to practice, learning and testing and it wasn’t until the end of this intensive transition to tropical climates that the first 200 bags of Irlanda Biodynamic coffee was sold. Since then, the entire farm has moved to the Biodynamic method of agriculture and serves as an educational tool for local communities and the natural food industry at large.
Café Altura’s founder, Chris Shepherd, visited this Finca in the early sixties as an entrepreneur seeking out new organic products to bring into the US. While the Peters’ family sought to bring biodynamic farming the tropical climates, Chris Shepherd sought to bring new and exciting natural products back to a country that had no established market for them. 30 successful years later, both the Finca Irlanda and Café Altura remain successful trade partners and pioneers in their respective industries.
What is the Difference Between Biodynamic and Organic Coffee?
- Biodynamic farmers view the farm as an organism, and therefore rely greatly on the cycle of useful materials that are produced and then recycled within the farm.
- Biodynamic farming relies on a nutrient rich soil component called humus, which is created by livestock integration, use of green manure (cover crops) and legumes, composting, and crop rotation.
- Biodynamic farming deals with pest control in a symbiotic system where the allowance of biological diversity keeps pests in check naturally through the predator and prey system.
- The humus system also allows for water retention in the soil, leading to a more drought resistant farm.
- Biodynamic farming also requires that 50% of livestock feed is grown on the farm, while NOP has no such requirements and allows feeding of livestock with imported organic feed.
- Biodynamic certification requires that the entire farm be operated under biodynamic principles, while NOP certified products might come from one area of a farm that is organic, while the rest of that farm holds regular non-organic growing practices.